by Victor Wanchena
I have had the good fortune to witness much beauty and grandeur in this world. The best of it has always been from a motorcycle. Beautiful scenery and motorcycles go hand in hand. As a vehicle, a motorcycle is supremely suited to taking in the great vistas of the world.
Some time ago, while I was trying to ride around all five Great Lakes in under 50 hours, I was witness to a sunset unrivaled for some time. I was on the eastern side on Lake Superior. I had been riding in light rain and gloom all day long. The weather had been cool, as well, and was starting to take its toll on me. I pressed on, but the cold rain had sapped my energy only a few hours into my ride. It had grown dark early; a heavy blanket of clouds lay over the lake. I was descending into a small valley, at the bottom the road turned east, away from the lake. Just as I was about to make the turn east ,the entire valley exploded in the warmest golden light I had ever seen. The bike, the road, everything was bathed in a dramatic light; the kind lighting directors would trade their Oscar for. Whole scene recharged my spirit. I peeked into the mirror and saw the source of this light. The sun had just dipped below the clouds many miles to the west, somewhere over the lake. I was glad to have been there at that moment.
A couple years back, I found myself riding across New Mexico. It was late; 1 or 2 AM as I made my way from Alamogordo to Las Cruces. The riding was easy; the heat of the day had subsided as I rolled along in the open expanse of the White Sands desert. A short way into the desert, the full moon cleared some clouds and now illuminated the entire area. The deep darkness of the night disappeared as the white sands of the desert now seemed almost radioactive in the silver light of the moon. To the north, a thunderstorm slid by. Its towering clouds also painted a surreal silver in the moon’s light. Occasional lightning bolts leapt through the storm, adding to its ominous shape. I tried to soak it all in, but couldn’t. I thought about trying to take a picture, but knew that it would never capture what I saw. Again, I was glad to have been there at that moment.
I’ve wondered why these scenes have always found me while riding. I suppose the winding roads, obscure locations, and odd times that I ride have put me in the right place at the right time to witness such wonderful scenery. As I think back over the years I couldn’t remember many memorable moments from inside a car. Given the connection a motorcyclist feels to wider world, it stands to reason that those moments of intense beauty would be intensified on a motorcycle. I consider it one of the many rewards of riding a motorcycle. The passive nature of travel by car seems to deaden the senses to impressive scenery. It only makes sense that the first thing most of us do when we encounter a lovely scene in a car is stop and get out. This isn’t always the case on a bike.
I’ll close with a friendly reminder. Ride To Work Day is on Wednesday July, 16th this year. So if you only ride to work one day this year, that’s the day to do it. Join your fellow commuters rain or shine.